Stranger in the Earth

thoughts on the way to zion

Archive for the category “Stories”

When You’re the Grownup

I was that little girl who wanted to take care of all of the animals in the neighborhood. Except for the cats. I could take or leave them, unless they were my cat (who was cleverly named “Kitty”). But I was a regular little St. Francis when it came to animals. I once made such a fuss over a dead baby mouse buried in the backyard that the foreman who was overseeing a crew installing powerlines underground through our yard specifically pulled me aside and showed me exactly where he would be digging, and promised to stay far away from the tiny little cross I had made to mark its final resting place.

My cat brought a number of animals home, proudly pawing at the sliding door on our deck, he would tote any number of critters who would be mostly in their last hours. For years an airbrushed painting of me, done by my absurdly talented uncle, hung on a wall in my parents’ house. It was a portrait of me as a 6 year old, holding a baby bird I found one day taken from a photo of a real moment in my childhood.

I remember the day clearly. I was looking for my cat while trying to occupy myself with outdoorsy things to do, and stumbled upon a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. The mother was nowhere in sight, and I immediately felt as though I had the next-of-kin responsibility for the well being of this baby thing that I put my finger down by its feet, and it hopped right on. Only later in life did I realize that wild birds don’t do that. But Disney made me believe that it was normal, so I didn’t think anything of it.

I walked straight into my house with said bird perched safely on my finger, and found my dad to show him. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t more excited to have the bird in the house, but after he swiftly directed me outdoors, he took my picture. (I was wearing a California Raisins sweatshirt and a side ponytail like a good little 80’s child). Years later, my uncle made a large airbrushed copy of the picture, and it was perfect. It basically summarized who I was as a child.

What happened to the bird? I was persuaded to bring the baby back to where I found it, and lo and behold, the mom took it back and wasn’t bothered by the “human scent” grownups tell you will cause the parent to abandon the baby. Maybe that’s true. It probably is. But then you become a parent and realize that there are lots of handy parenty things you can say to your children that let you off the hook.  Not that they are untrue or even manipulative. As a kid, however, you’re thinking, “Wow, Mom! That’s so WISE! You know so much about animal behavior! Someday I want to be as versed in zoology as you are!”

Mom is thinking, “Oh, please, don’t talk me into taking that nasty little creature into our house with those beautiful green eyes of yours! It’s going to die anyway, and I don’t want today to be the day I have to see those green eyes fill with tears as we have our first talk about finality and DEATH!”

There were lots of those types of animal rescue moments when I was a kid. Once my cat brought an entire burrow of bunnies home, one by one, for almost a week. At the end of it, we had nursed 6 bunnies back to health. Only one died, but she was in really rough shape. All thanks to the “Kitty”. Tonight, however, I had flashbacks. After the dog had been out for longer than usual, a barely alive 3 day old bunny lay completely still on our back stoop. I had forgotten that we found baby bunnies in their warm little home a few days ago, and that I have a dog bread for small game. Fail.

All of this happened during a meeting we were having, so as the meeting concluded I had to go and survey the damage. A friend of ours had her two kids with her, and her daughter Elizabeth examined the casualty on my stoop as I was searching for the flashlight to see how many of the babies our dog had killed. “It’s STILL BREATHING!” came the triumphant cry. Then she said the very same words I remember saying to my mom, “Can I take it home?! Can I take it home?! PLEASE! It might get better!!!!” Thankfully, Sarah, her mother, was honest and said that though it would die, she had no objections to her taking it home to “die in a warm place.”

As they left with their newly adopted bunny, I carefully investigated the area around the burrow. Two bunnies were dead, but one was completely perfect. Not a scratch. Just stranded in the yard. My courageous (albeit nauseated) husband, disposed of the dead, and I put the little live bunny back in its burrow. It was like being a kid again, but not. I didn’t want my daughter to stumble upon the carnage as she happily frolicked about the yard (yes, she definitely frolicks- that’s not an exaggeration). But the little Carrie inside me felt every bit as much compassion for the perfectly alive bunny as I had when I was a little girl.

And when you’re the grownup, you get to see all sides. I only saw one side when I was a kid. It was the side that felt like a fairy tail. Tonight, I watched little Elizabeth plead with her mother to take the injured bunny home, and I saw both sides. I could fully relate to Elizabeth’s yearning to nurse the little creature back to health, and I could fully empathize with Sarah having to break the sad news of the bunny’s demise while not stifling her daughter’s heart, which was welling up with devotion towards the poor critter in her hands. Of course, then I saw the side of cleaning up the mess, which was something I never had to do as a kid. (Ahem… thanks, Dad).

So tonight I’m going to bed, praying that a mommy bunny will come back to take care of the last healthy baby in the burrow, that the bunny Elizabeth is tending gets better, and that they move to a safer yard! Are there more important prayer requests out there? Yes. But just because I’m a grownup now doesn’t mean that Little Carrie no longer exists, and it’s moments like these that I have to admit I like the way the Lord made me care about helpless creatures. So here’s to being a grownup with a little kid’s heart.


On The Wings of Change

The waiting period has to be the most emotional for me. For the past month, Zack and I have agreed to begin our search for a new house, one that would be ours for at least a decade or more. It all started at the beginning of last month when Zack massively encountered the Holy Spirit in such a way that he has been a changed man ever since. His heart has been continually aching for the poor. “I want to be like George Bailey”, he told me. I agreed, but didn’t have the same zeal until a week later when I went to the prayer room strictly to spend some time waiting on the Lord to see what He might want to tell me. After a divine appointment type conversation with a dear friend in the coffee shop, I began to have Luke 6:30 racing through my mind.

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”, it says. The verse is offensive to the American dream, but Jesus gives no qualifiers to make it easier to swallow. Zack and I had only just begun discussing moving from our present situation because of some unfortunate circumstances that occurred with the owner of the house.  We had the option of either trying to buy it, or choosing to move elsewhere.

Suddenly I found myself burdened for the poor as well as I sat in prayer, but in a way I never would have expected. We could stay in our house and try to buy it, but  pictures began to flash through my mind of the people I most admire. All of them had two common characteristics: they are joyful and they are generous.   It was not only that they were generous with their finances, though that is a great prayer of mine (God, make me a joyful giver!  I want to give millions of dollars away for the spreading of the gospel!), but they are also generous with their heart and their time. There are those who give of their resources but never open their heart, and never give of their time. I want to be one who is generous in all three areas: heart, time, money.

Among the people I saw as I prayed came a random scene from a movie that I don’t particularly like. It was the movie “Ever After”, which I haven’t seen in years. The prince of the story is entirely too self-preoccupied for his own good, but after meeting the heroine of the story, he is ignited with passion for things he had never considered before. The scene that came to mind was when he was gushing to her about this newfound zeal and says the line, “I used to think that if I cared about anything I’d have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad. But now I’ve found my purpose.”

My stomach fluttered inside of me and I realized that what I thought I was made for was only a small fraction of the story. What was I beginning to understand about my future? It was as if Jesus was inviting me and my little family into the type of ministry that few (including myself) would think possible. Yes, we could stay in our current house, but I began to feel as though Zack and I were to be like a father and a mother to many who needed to know that kind of love. Too many people have grown up only knowing the abandonment and disappointment associated with being a child of somebody. I’m not even talking about adoption, though I pray we will be able to do that one day as well. I’m talking about expressing the love of Christ to people, young and old alike, that the Lord puts in our path who have never known the peace of a loving Christ-centered home, the warmth of an environment where prayer is commonplace, and the safety found in the care of ones who value those who cannot fight for themselves.

I felt as though the Lord was saying that the home we are currently in is too small for the  ministry assignment He has for us: to do life as lovers of Jesus with a tangible expression of helping those in need in a real way, on a daily basis. It’s a very expensive undertaking. We need a house with lots of room, lots of beds, lots of food, but thankfully I know this: the Lord ALWAYS pays for what He orders.  I have no idea what all of this will mean for the coming year, but life is about to get a lot more exciting for this little Hensley clan.

I Love Lucy

Good morning, posse (which is what you shall be hence forth called as a reader of this blog)!

It is currently a lovely morning at the Hensley household. It is currently 8 a.m., and I sip my cup of french press, carefully crafted by my husband who is now out on an errand of obtaining breakfast for the two of us and our new addition to the family. No, I’m not speaking of some unborn child in the womb- we’re still enjoying the loveliness of married life without children.

No, the addition I speak of is curled up quietly just a few feet away from me. Her name is Lucy, and though I’ve had a few less-than-excellent experiences of dogs in my life, yesterday was not one them. After a few hours of brainstorming, grading, syllabus writing, and doing other “administratorish” things, I grabbed a short break to take one of those online “what dog is right for you?” quizzes just for fun. I came across some adorable breeds that, though perfect for me, we not perfect for my wallet, and felt a little inspired to keep searching.

Yes, I am a dog-lover. More importantly, I love big dogs. I mean, if you’re going to have a dog, get a real one! Little yappy dogs that act more like cats are an entirely different species altogether, as far as I’m concerned. There have only been about 2 small dogs that I have EVER relinquished affection to with sincerity. One is has spent the last few years going from cute to becoming a miniature monster, and the other I met only a few months ago. Her name is Gaia, and she has been the only small dog to force me to reevaluate my opinions on the poodle breed.

However, yesterday was a day of casual suggestions to the hubby that led to a trip to the humane society. I had been hoping for a boxer, but the only boxers that caught my eye were a mere 11 weeks old, and though puppies are cute, I have learned the hard way that they require nearly as much skillful parenting as a human child. Two years ago I instantly fell in love with a German shepherd whom I named Festus. His puppy charm glazed over my judgment and I bought himfor a mere 50 bucks.  He turned out to be a great dog, but with a BIG personality and proceeded to grow larger and larger until he weighed 75 lbs and finally became too much of a handfull for me, a full-time Bible school student with a part-time job. Festus was graciously taken by my parents to care for, but within a year he was more than they could handle, and became someone else’s beloved pet.

Yesterday, however, was a bit different. Zack and I chatted about buying a dog, and we looked on the humane society’s website just to see if anything caught our eye. We found a picture of a dog who was adorable, but still had no intention of making the decision right then and there. However, my curiosity led me to drive to the shelter down the road for a more complete idea of what was available. When Zack joined me later, none of the dogs stuck out to us until the last aisle. It was where they put the bigger dogs, most of which were barking and jumping obnoxiously. Zack and I exchange the eye-roll that meant we couldn’t take it much longer, though many of the dogs were pretty cute stuff. As we approached the end of the line of cages, there she was: “Blossom”.

She sat quietly but alerted to our presence. Looking at the description on the cage we saw that she was a 2 year old boxer cross who had been housebroken. She was shy, and had been transfered from another shelter,  so not too much was known about her other than the fact that she has been previously fixed and was ready to go home with us that day if we wanted her.

The moment I knelt down to her level, she leaned her body against the gate to get a good scratch, and Zack and I melted at her sweetness. We asked to take her out to the play area to see what she was like interacting with us, and the moment we got out there and I knelt down to pet her, she leaned up against me and burrowed her face into my stomach. No bouncing, no barking, no pulling, no running around to get a sniff of all the new smells outside her own pen… she just snuggled.

It didn’t take us long to fall in love and we signed the paperwork. It wasn’t until after we began to chat with the staff that we found out her picture was the one we saw on their website earlier and had fallen in love with. We paid the cash and took her home beeming. She is still getting used to her surroundings and new name ‘Lucy’, but she is phenomenal at letting us known when she needs to go out, and stayed quiet all night while we slept. However, I know all too well how dogs can change over time, so we have already begun practicing some serious Caesar Milan techniques, and it is astounding how fast she responds with confident compliance!

We scored.

The Day My Life Actually Did Change… a lot

Since getting engaged I’ve managed to drop off the face of  Cyber space, but I’m hoping to remedy that soon now that wedding plans have relaxed. Spring break also played a role in my disappearance, and since writing is a simultaneous hobby and hassle, I’ve managed to pull the old blog off the proverbial shelf to dust it off a bit and see if I can’t do a little polishing.  

So…. everyone has been asking for my side of the story with how Zack popped the question. He did a splendid job telling his perspective, but I’ll do my best to keep up. It was over a month ago now… Mandie and I were supposed to grab some lame Chinese and a movie for the evening since we both had it off. We met up and as I jumped into the passenger side of her vehicle, which immediately subjects you to a bump on the head and sunglasses hanging in your face, she sighed and looked at me with a weird twinge of a fast approaching confession in her eyes.

“Carrie,” she began. “We’re not going to Peking.” She was referring to the aforementioned food plan. I replied with a tone of confusion and grace. She continued, “We’re going to go shopping…. for a really nice dress for you…. and we might be meeting a boy later.” She waited for me to grasp the implications of her statement.

I think I estimated a likely 52 “oh-my-gosh!” exclamations between getting in the car and reaching the 71 Highway. I had nothing of sense to say, but my “oh-my-gosh” turned into Mandie and me screaming our heads off as I rambled about how shocked I was that Zack was proposing so soon. Yes, I knew it was going to happen, but never did I think on a Thursday, and certainly not for another couple of months.

Mandie and I got to the mall, but only had a few hours to find what I was going to wear and get ready to meet Zack downtown, so we power shopped that beast until I was almost ready to lay on my face in the middle of the food court while I made Mandie find something for me. I mean, ladies, you know how hard it is to shop under pressure for a dress in pre-prom season, right?!

Okay, so finally I found what I needed and we jetted back to Mandie’s apartment so I could get ready. Of course he had to plan all this on the day I’m grunged out. We were running pretty late by this point, and my poor fiance-to-be was getting outrageously antsy.  …But it was worth it. I looked good and he didn’t complain.

Finally, with my heart about to jump out of my esophagus, I arrived at the hotel and was met by the doorman who directed me to the front desk. The ladies freaked out and greeted me with warm and giddy directions to follow a waiter, who escorted me to the crystal ballroom where Zack was waiting with a table, candles, and flowers.

I was shaking with anticipation and ecstatic to see him. We ate some of the best food I have ever experienced and after a while I just couldn’t eat another bite. “I don’t know if I’m stuffed or just done at this point,” was my signal that I couldn’t take the anticipation anymore.

Zack expressed the same sentiment and came around to my side of the table. He knelt down, pulling the little box out of his pocket. With effortless unrehersed sincerity he said so many beautiful things that can be left unexpressed here, and asked for my hand in marriage.

I said yes about thirty times. The rest of the night was consumed with us freaking out and telling everyone we could find. So… that’s my take on it. 


The Day My Life Didn’t Really Change Yet

Recently I was asked to tell my side of the story concerning Zack’s and my first meeting, which he told on his blog not long ago. So, here it is, as promised, but before I go on I must admit that my side of the story is significantly less dramatic because I’m generally oblivious to the happenings around me, particularly when it comes to men liking me.  Anyway… on with the story.

It was a weekday. I was steadily engaged with getting used to my new job as a leader of a discipleship program for young adults whilst simultaneously preparing for the semester to begin. The hectic-ness of my life had gone up exponentially and I was managing my time with valor and immovable zeal. After a couple of hours of shutting out the world and honing in on whatever it was that consumed me that afternoon in the coffee shop, I began to pack up.

I looked up to see Zack at the table next to me. He was also by himself. He was a guy I had met a couple of times and observed here and there with  no clarity as to who he was, and now his chair was inconveniently positioned directly over my plugged in power cord. I always hate when that happens because it’s usually an unnecessarily long process of etiquette to get your cord back, where now you apologize to the person for asking them to move and they come back with an over-courteous, “Oh, don’t worry about it!” and then you say a quick thank you, and then they start asking you how you are, even though you might not know them, and on and on we go, all for a simple action that shouldn’t require much interaction at all. 

I glared at my cord as if it were my child after an incident of rebellion and then briefly strategized ways of getting it unplugged without actually disturbing its large guardian, but the risk of personal space invasion was too high for both of us- I had to ask, “Hey, sorry, can you unplug me?” Zack was more than happy to oblige and quickly moved out of the way with a smile to get it for me. All I cared about at this point was leaving promptly… that’s just how I am: Point A to Point B.

To my general dismay, Point B began to slip through my fingers as Zack struck up a conversation, but this was one moment in time where I wound up enjoying the detour. This is the point in the story where I differ a little from Zack on his memory of the details. The only reason I trust my memory here is because, after the random questions about my classes and all that, I thought he was done. I threw my empty cup in the trash and he actually began the conversation again with “Hey, I just want you to know, I really respect you and all that you do around here.”

The only reason this point is important is because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t have sat there talking to him for the next 2 hours had he not said it. His compliment was genuine and it tweaked a note in me that rarely gets touched. I was tense with the prospect of not getting wherever I was headed, but with the statement of his respect my shoulders loosened and with a few blinks and a neck-jerk I thanked him. (It’s not every day a girl gets something meaningful spoken to her from a guy).

From that point on I was put at ease and forgot entirely about hurrying on with my day. We conversed with a total absense of awkwardness. I eventually sat down because my computer weighs as much as one of my own legs and I was tired of holding it. What’s funny is that I didn’t find out until much later that when a girl sits at a guy’s table, it’s a big deal. I did it all the time and no one ever bothered to tell me, so ladies, bear that in mind.

After nearly two hours, we parted ways just how Zack said, but there was no shocking revelation or fireworks on my end. All I knew was that this guy was my new friend. The fact that I would fall madly in love with him months later never entered my mind, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be; real. 

We spent from August until April just being good friends… but that’s another story for another time.

A Button-Pusher’s Paradise

Hello, Public!
Here’s one for you since I’ve been out of commission with finals.

A few days ago my boyfriend Zack and I were enjoying an evening of football and card games at Applebee’s. We were soaking up the time we had with a rapidly approaching busy week, rocking out to a combination of songs like “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and lame Christmas tunes that never leave you feeling proud of the artist performing them.
After numerous games of schooling Zack at cards, we decided to take off, giggling our way to the door over clever ideas we had about teasing some of our friends. Hilarious hypothetical scenarios of no importance tumbled from our lips, and we were gleefully and probably too loudly consumed in our own world until we hear a voice.
“Excuse me? Excuse me!” It grew in demanding irritation until we finally peered around the corner to find a complete stranger sitting with his arm around who could’ve only been his girlfriend, or soon-to-be girlfriend. He got our attention and we gazed at him with no earthly knowledge of what he could want from us, pausing for an explanation.

“Hey, were you talking about us?” he said, as though we had actually noticed them sitting there. Hardly able to comprehend what he was driving at, Zack replies with a confused, “Uh, no.”
The skinny young man’s frame bristled into a challenging motion of a presumptuous nature, and the woman next to him offered no kindness to counter the rudeness of her companion.
“Okay, man, I was just asking, because we thought you were talking about us!” he continued.
By now, Zack was mounting in excitement and the many buttons this edgy individual offered for him to push, and said in continued bewilderment, “No… we were talking about some friends of ours.”
Button Man wouldn’t give up. “Yeah! Okay, man, I was just asking! Cuz, whatever!” I think he threw another threatening “Yeah!” in there for effect. Too bad I could’ve taken him.

“Okay…? Weird, man” was Zack’s glorious response, that struck a cord in me, and in the delightful awkwardness of the moment, I quickly rushed outside so as not to laugh in their face. My boyfriend wandered out after me with a dazed countenance as I burst forth in roaring glee, reveling in what just happened as we took our leave.

The moral of the story? finding yourself in unjustly awkward situations is fun. I hope you all get the chance to experience the same.

I Do Love A Good Mystery

A handfull of days ago the entire student body got an e-mail. It made the declaration that two weeks into the semester classes are cancelled and homework and prayer room requirements are null and void until September. Who was it sent by? Well, it was signed by the Student Goverment Association and the school’s Communications Team. Was it legit? No. But props to the person without a conscience who managed to hack into their account. I think I chuckled a little when I heard what happened, but now I have coffee on my lap and an assignment due. Not my day, I guess.

Pooling Observations

So I managed to muster up enough courage yesterday to go to the pool positioned in the center of my apartment complex. Why does it take courage? Because it’s POSITIONED IN THE CENTER OF MY APARTMENT COMPLEX! Okay, I don’t really know why the architect decided it was a good idea to place a pool in view of nearly every apartment. Likely it had something to do with convenience. Regardless, for reasons previously mentioned in the modesty post, I gathered my strength and managed to put the possibility of dozens of eyes staring at me out of my mind as I went out to the pool to try to absorb the UV’s. I was on a mission to remedy the whiteness that has spread across my once tan epidermis. To my great delight, I rediscovered the glory of childhood.

As I sat, correcting assignments, I was able to spend the two hours enjoying the presence of several children playing together, and realized I wish I was as fortunate as they. Their lives are incredible. In the splashing and gaming, one little boy grew exhausted and embittered at the speed of his older sister and her friend because of his inability to tag them. The result was perfect.

Now, the reason I am a horrible disciplinarian is because the logic of children perfectly exemplifies how I wish I could respond 9 times out of 10 if it were not socially unacceptable for adults to do so. I cannot, with good conscience, mandate a time-out for someone who either leaves me doubled over in laughter or convicted for my own depravity. The little boy, whom I will call Peter, stood on the edge of the pool with his platinum blonde hair matted to his head in hysterical disarray, arms folded and rage filling his heart, which I concluded from his contorted expression. He was pushed past the boiling point and he could no longer be expected to chase anyone. His sister’s response to her kid brother’s stubbornness was equally cantankerous. “Fine, then you can’t play with us EVER again!” she said, completely devoid of mercy. Her friend agreed to some extent, and poor Peter had as much as he could handle. He proceeded to spend the next half hour trying to get his sister in trouble by telling on her to their father the moment she made anything that could remotely be taken as an injustice.

The thing is, kids never actually mean “never.” It’s like an unwritten rule. “Never” generally refers to a frame of time within the succeeding hour after the statement is made. It’s kind of like getting a penalty in hockey; basically it’s the peer-to-peer version of a “time-out.” Who determines when this penalty is over? Well, very simply, it is limited to the memory of both parties involved. So, we’ll say approximately 15-30 minutes.I forgot, but I love children. Something about them makes me feel normal and at home, and soon I no longer had in my mind the possibility of creepy eyes being on me. Kids are the best.        

Things I Think…

You know what? There is just simply no way of getting out of guessing someone’s gender wrong. For example, I was hanging out with someone the other day… no names… and when this individual opened the door for us, out came “Thank you, sir” from my companion. Nope, the polite person who opened the door for us was not a sir. Definitely an awkward moment when she responded with dejected, “No problem,” that trailed off into the silence of feeling the full brunt of the unintentional insult.

There are few things more funny than watching white people clap to music while sitting down. I can’t clap to save my life, but at least I know that about myself and cease trying unless I am sufficiently close to someone who CAN clap.

I’m discovering “gird your loins” as possibly one of the best phrases to resurrect.

Speaking of the resurrection, I’ve been studying it lately and I have to say, if you want to have a good time, dig up 1 Corinthians 15 and fall in love with it, because it’s just good stuff.  I love 1 Thess 4 when Paul speaks of the resurrection of the saints and the return of Jesus and then says, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” You can pretty much defuse any frustration with the phrase, “Hey, Jesus is coming back!” Peter Lewis says this, Without it [the resurrection] Christianity would have been still-born, for a living faith cannot survive a dead savior.  

Happy Anniversary to My Heroes

Mom and Dad

 I would like to introduce all of you to my Mom and Dad. On July 1 they celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary! These people are unbelievable. 30 years ago they met and fell in love while beginning their teaching career, and now they are proud parents to my brother, his wife and myself, and of course, proud GRANDPARENTS to my soon-to-be-one year old nephew, who is the cutest kid in the universe.

They are two of the most loving, kind, compassionate, encouraging, goofy, faithful, and generous people I know. My dad has my utmost respect for all that he has given himself to in the way of loving God and being loved by Him. He is unashamedly humble, strong and servant hearted. My mom is equally amazing. She is the type of person you can talk to for hours about almost anything. She loves to love people and make everyone feel included and cared for. Together, they are incredible.

Read more…

Post Navigation